19 July, 2015

Homily for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) - Come away and rest a while


Mark 6:30-34
‘Jesus said to them, “You must come away to some deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”’ (Mark 6:31)
Last week we left the apostles as they were beginning their ministry alongside Jesus as his partners in the gospel. Their call from Jesus was to go out and to evangelize, to free, and to heal; and we saw how this is also our common vocation because we are members of the Church, of the new family of disciples Jesus gathers around himself. Today we re-join Mark’s gospel as the apostles begin to return. They come back to Jesus tired, in need of refreshments and quietness, and eager to share with him what they have experienced. In response to these needs Jesus invites them to travel with him to a place where they could be alone – a deserted place, or sometimes translated as a “lonely” place, a place separated from others where the apostles could be alone with Jesus for some time without having to worry too much about wider society.
To minister alongside Jesus, whatever our specific vocation in life might be, is the very high calling we share, but it can be also very draining on our spiritual and emotional resources. There is no shame in recognising this. Jesus knows this first-hand so we see that he is the first one to invite his followers to regularly return to him for a break, to take a step back from what they are doing, and to recharge their spiritual batteries. We are included in this invitation from Jesus, and we must make it a priority to regularly return to Jesus for relief and for strength. Yet, by saying, “You must come away to some deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while” Jesus does not invite us to go on a carefree holiday, forgetting about everyone and everything we leave behind. Rather, Jesus invites us to retreat from society for some time so that we may have the capacity to serve others better in the future; He invites to deepen our faith by being with him, and to reset our spiritual compass ready for the next journey. In this way, the spiritual rest to which Jesus invites us becomes in itself integral part of our Christian ministry, not an optional add-on. Remember the word of the prophet Isaiah to the whole people of God,
‘In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.’ (Isaiah 30:15)

So how can we follow Jesus’ invitation in practice?
Going on a retreat would naturally spring to mind. This is of particular importance for priests, for consecrated men and women, and for all involved in serving the Church family – incidentally, you might be pleased to know that our PCC members and I will hold a quiet morning together in the autumn to pray and reflect about the life of our parish church. The value of retreating from our daily busyness and finding a place of calm with other Christians can hardly be overstated; however, retreats are very often yearly affairs, and we definitely need occasions to recharge our spiritual batteries more often than that. How can we follow Jesus’ invitation more frequently? Where can we readily recuperate our energies, and prepare ourselves to evangelize, free, and heal wider society? 
Well, the answer is staring at us in the face, as it were. The answer is here in what we do each week together; it is the Sunday Mass. By participating at the Mass on Sundays we do much more than fulfilling the third divine commandment, Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, we also, paraphrasing the gospel, “come to place all by ourselves and rest a while”. Here we come to a place a little separated for wider society and we get together as Jesus’ new family; here we encounter the living Lord; and here we are given sustenance for ministry. In fact, you could say we do this about every Eucharist we celebrate, not just on Sunday; yet, Sunday Mass should hold special, paramount importance for us; it should be the centre of our life, because on the most inportant day of the week, we come to it for refreshment and we depart from it with the strength we need to evangelize, to free, and to heal.


‘Jesus said to them, “You must come away to some deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”’ (Mark 6:31)

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